Skip to main content

You’re getting your financial life in order in 2020. Yesterday, we explained how to get your credit report. Now that you have it, you want to know what it means. Here’s where to start.

What’s a credit report? It’s a summary of your credit history. It lists personal information (name, address, Social Security number), payment history on credit accounts (like mortgages, student loans, credit cards), and public records (like if you’ve filed bankruptcy). Read the report carefully. Make sure the information is correct:

  • Personal information – are the name and addresses correct?
  • Accounts – do you recognize them? Is the information correct?
  • Negative information – do you recognize the accounts here? Is the information correct?
  • Inquiries – do you recognize the places you applied for credit?

What if you don’t have a credit report or your report is blank? You might not have a credit history if you haven’t had a credit card or taken out a loan. To build a credit history, you’ll need to open accounts that are included in a credit report. For example, you could apply for a secured card, where you pay a security deposit to show the bank you’re committed to paying back what you borrowed. It’s very important to pay these off on time though, or it could end up hurting your credit.

If you find mistakes on your report, you can take steps to fix them. Tomorrow’s blog will tell you how. If you want to get a head start, you can read Fixing Your Credit, Credit Repair, and Credit Repair Scams.

It is your choice whether to submit a comment. If you do, you must create a user name, or we will not post your comment. The Federal Trade Commission Act authorizes this information collection for purposes of managing online comments. Comments and user names are part of the Federal Trade Commission’s (FTC) public records system, and user names also are part of the FTC’s computer user records system. We may routinely use these records as described in the FTC’s Privacy Act system notices. For more information on how the FTC handles information that we collect, please read our privacy policy.

The purpose of this blog and its comments section is to inform readers about Federal Trade Commission activity, and share information to help them avoid, report, and recover from fraud, scams, and bad business practices. Your thoughts, ideas, and concerns are welcome, and we encourage comments. But keep in mind, this is a moderated blog. We review all comments before they are posted, and we won’t post comments that don’t comply with our commenting policy. We expect commenters to treat each other and the blog writers with respect.

  • We won’t post off-topic comments, repeated identical comments, or comments that include sales pitches or promotions.
  • We won’t post comments that include vulgar messages, personal attacks by name, or offensive terms that target specific people or groups.
  • We won’t post threats, defamatory statements, or suggestions or encouragement of illegal activity.
  • We won’t post comments that include personal information, like Social Security numbers, account numbers, home addresses, and email addresses. To file a detailed report about a scam, go to

We don't edit comments to remove objectionable content, so please ensure that your comment contains none of the above. The comments posted on this blog become part of the public domain. To protect your privacy and the privacy of other people, please do not include personal information. Opinions in comments that appear in this blog belong to the individuals who expressed them. They do not belong to or represent views of the Federal Trade Commission.

January 15, 2020
I have paid off a debt that was on my report which was sold. I paid it off to the latest holder. They removed the debt from my report. But the older debt holder will not remove it. They claim they do not see it but they are clearly on my report. I called the credit bureau's they told me to contact the holder I have questions to. As consumers trying to clean up their own reports we run into this maybe this is an issue you can tell us what to do.
FTC Staff
January 30, 2020

In reply to by Journey

You can contact both the credit reporting agency and the older debt holder. You can use our sample letter to dispute the debt because it has been paid, and ask for it to be removed.

January 15, 2020
It is important for consumers to know the difference between inquiries that resulted from applications for credit (also called "hard inquiries") and those that come from prescreened offers (also called "soft inquiries"). The consumer may not recognize all soft inquiries if they do not remember the preapproved or prequalified solicitations they have received. Soft inquiries, however, do not impact a consumer's score.
January 15, 2020
Appreciate the many articles that are posted. Should be of great help to may folks.
January 15, 2020
Waste of time to try and correct mistakes, they do not care and takes years!
January 17, 2020

In reply to by Robert

I agree Robert. Even when you send them questions by emails. The refused to respond. Theses Credit Bureaus and people who work for them has NO heart for the CONSUMERS PROBLEMS!! I have asked several questions and no response.
January 21, 2020

In reply to by Robert

It is not a waste. You will end up paying more for credit, or getting turned down if you don't fix mistakes. They are required by law to investigate and respond timely. I have done this, and it works. It only takes years if you sit and wait for it to get outdated and fall off. They don't remove verified information, so perhaps your issue is with the company you incurred the debt with.
Johnny Ray
January 17, 2020
This is very timely as I've just requested my first credit report. If I find any discrepancies, the FTC e-mails/website will be a much appreciated resource to help guide me through the appropriate steps to take.
January 16, 2020
Thank you, Ms. Schifferle for these helpful notes about getting and correcting agency credit reports. GB
MAM in FresnoD…
January 19, 2020
Thank you. Just FYI, when I married my husband and changed to his last name, my credit report increased in volume dramatically, and there were many fraudulent entries on it. If the reporting agencies had verified the information with at least a social security number, the items would not have been added. How can we get credit reporting companies to verify information? It should be simple, use date of birth, current address, social security, etc. It took me six months of relentless work with them to correct the errors.
January 21, 2020
Thank you for the helpful information!! I have a question for you...Does a bankruptcy automatically fall of your credit report after seven years or do I have to actually ask it to be removed? My seven year mark is coming up in August so I wan to be prepared. Also my rating went jumped up 12 points one month, down 12 the next and up 12 again the next, why the huge jump when my credit balance only slightly changed nothing was late.
FTC Staff
January 30, 2020

In reply to by Daria2020

The bankruptcy public record is deleted from the credit report either seven years or 10 years from the date of filing the bankruptcy, depending on the chapter you filed.

Chapter 13 bankruptcy is deleted seven years from the date of filing, because it requires at least a partial repayment of the debts you owe.

Chapter 7 bankruptcy is deleted 10 years from the date of filing, because none of the debt is repaid.